News / Africa

Ethiopia Promises Details of PM Meles' Health

Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi (file photo)
Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi (file photo)
David Arnold
Speculation about the health of Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi may be coming to an end soon. After days of rumors and unconfirmed reports that Meles was gravely ill, or even deceased, the Ethiopian government says it will clarify the situation later.

The rumors and unconfirmed reports began last week and gained momentum when Meles did not attend a meeting of the African Union in Addis Ababa as expected. There was even speculation about who might succeed Meles if he could not finish his term in office in 2015.
There is no serious illness at all ... (Meles) will return soon.

Then on Monday, Ethiopia’s deputy prime minister and foreign minister, Hailemariam Desalegne, confirmed that Meles was indeed ill, but refused to elaborate or say what the illness might be. The speculation increased again.

Meles has been the dominant political figure in this nation of approximately 93 million people since the rebel forces of the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front entered the capital, Addis Ababa, in 1991 and ended the 14-year dictatorship of Mengistu Hailemarian. Meles has for more than 20 years served as chairman of the TPLF and the larger Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front that now holds all but one seat in the national parliament.

Until Monday, the government declined comment on Meles’ health. His hand-picked deputy, Desalagne, yesterday told a Bloomberg News correspondent in Addis, “There is no serious illness at all.” He said Meles would “return soon,” but did not talk about the nature of the illness or where the nation’s leader was receiving treatment.

The ambassador for public diplomacy, Getachew Reda, also gave a VOA reporter in the Amharic language service the same account, and refused to identify the illness and where the prime minister is being treated.

Rumors about Meles’ health abound

In a nation where the government maintains strict control over the local media, unconfirmed reports have surfaced in recent days on Ethiopian dissident web sites around the world that the prime minister suffers from cancer, a brain tumor and even that he might be dead.

One unverified report is that Meles has recently received treatment at Saint-Luc University Hospital in Brussels. The hospital did not reply to a VOA request for information about whether Meles was or had recently been a patient there.

First speculation about Meles’ health began in local and opposition media around the world in 2009, when he was reported receiving treatment for an unnamed illness in Dubai. Rumors about the severity of his health re-appeared in opposition media when Meles failed to attend several major public events in recent weeks.

Out of public eye for two weeks

Although he was scheduled to open a New Partnership for Africa’s Development in Addis on Saturday, Senegal, Macky Sall, took his place and announced that Meles could not attend due “to health conditions.” Meles also failed to appear on Sunday at the opening of an African Union summit of more than three dozen African leaders at the Addis Ababa headquarters, where the prime minister usually plays host. 

Earlier, Meles did not attend the July 9 celebration of neighboring South Sudan’s independence day, and failed to appear to address parliament on July 8 to approve Ethiopia’s current fiscal budget. State television did not include footage from a crucial July 16 parliamentary debate on the next budget, leading to speculation that he did not attend that state function either.

The Meles legacy and possible successors

Prior to his 2010 election, Meles publicly considered retirement but later said that the party pushed him to run for another five-year term.

During his current term Meles has risen in stature as an African leader in United Nations agencies and in the international community on issues such as climate change and economic development. He has launched major development programs in Ethiopia such as foreign investment in large commercial farmlands and the construction near the Sudanese border of the massive Grand Millennium Dam on the Abay River, which is a major source of Nile waters.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, left, meets with then-Egyptian Prime Minister Essam Sharaf, right, in Cairo, Egypt, September 17, 2011.Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, left, meets with then-Egyptian Prime Minister Essam Sharaf, right, in Cairo, Egypt, September 17, 2011.
x
Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, left, meets with then-Egyptian Prime Minister Essam Sharaf, right, in Cairo, Egypt, September 17, 2011.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, left, meets with then-Egyptian Prime Minister Essam Sharaf, right, in Cairo, Egypt, September 17, 2011.

Many of these projects have stirred controversy within Ethiopia and among many in the Ethiopian diaspora. Although Ethiopia has been seen as a close U.S. ally for its support of anti-terrorism efforts in Somalia and the region, the State Department has been critical of his government’s human rights record, the manner in which the government ran recent national elections, and of stifling free speech through swift use of new anti-terrorism laws.  Those laws recently resulted in lengthy jail sentences for many Ethiopian journalists.

Meles first served as president of Ethiopia for four years, then chose to become prime minister. The role of president, now held by Girma Woldegiorgis, is considered largely ceremonial.

Possible successors as prime minister include:

  • The minister of health, Dr. Tewodros Adhanom Gebreyesus, whose leadership on health issues has garnered global attention. He is a close friend of Meles. 
  • Meles’ wife, Azeb Mesfin, who is a member of parliament and the party’s powerful nine-member executive committee.
  • Hailemariam Desalegne, who is a former president of a southern region of Ethiopia who Meles elevated to national office in 2010.

You May Like

How to Safeguard Your Mobile Privacy

As the digital world becomes more mobile, so too do concerns about eroding privacy and increased hacking More

'Desert Dancer' Chronicles Iranian Underground Dance Troupe

Film by Richard Raymond is based on true story of Afshin Ghaffarian and his friends More

Obesity Poses Complex Problem

Professor warns of obesity’s worldwide health impact More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments page of 9
    Next 
by: sheway Yohannes from: kotebe campas
August 11, 2012 3:18 AM
Big chirak was died
I read messages from friends, it is good and nice. It is the right time for Oromo people revolution. Oromia must be independent country. Amara and Tigre must left finifine. Long life for oromo. Please stand up.

by: sonai gebru from: abu dhabi
August 07, 2012 7:38 AM
dear, all dont forgat we have strong pm meles zenawi that is our peryer answer he will be soon in ethiopia , dont give and wish even ur enmy to kill ,what he did i think he is serving our country we love him strong and fair pm god is grate to give him life stop un nessary pro
pganda always one ethiopia love u all.

by: Tibebu from: addis abeba
August 03, 2012 3:10 PM
I Am praying for our pm, meles zenawi .god be with him!! I hope he will be on his job soon.

by: aida from: abudhabi
August 02, 2012 5:56 AM
i wish a long life and health

by: zeleke from: hawasa
August 01, 2012 4:54 AM
I wish full health & success for our PM Meles Zenawi .

by: Anonymous
July 31, 2012 5:01 PM
Why should you have my comment reviewed. You call this a free media

by: fce from: addis
July 31, 2012 4:55 PM
Strange there is a rumor that he is dead. Wish he isn't but not a big deal. There are many intelligent Ethiopians who can lead the country probably better than him. All what matters is our readiness and the big boys willingness towards a bright future and non-egoistic thinking of passing the power to those who can. I don't know who but there are many

by: Techan Ws from: Ethiopia-Shashamane
July 31, 2012 3:11 PM
Our Hero PM Meles- I will pray to GOD about your healty, God be with you, Wish long live, Thank you.

by: mulugeta werede from: Maichew,Tigray
July 30, 2012 1:30 PM
We ethiopians will pray to have our leader back work soon. Get well soon; wishing you speedy recovery.

by: mulugeta werede from: Maichew, Tigray
July 30, 2012 1:20 PM
We ethiopians will pray to have our leader back to work soon. Get well soon wishing you speedy recovery. And I wish long life, may God bless you to our hero pm meles zenawi.
Comments page of 9
    Next 

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam Wari
X
Katherine Gypson
May 25, 2015 1:32 AM
For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.
Video

Video Scientists Testing Space Propulsion by Light

Can the sun - the heart of our solar system - power a spacecraft to the edge of our solar system? The answer may come from a just-launched small satellite designed to test the efficiency of solar sail propulsion. Once deployed, its large sail will catch the so-called solar wind and slowly reach what scientists hope to be substantial speed. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video FIFA Trains Somali Referees

As stability returns to the once lawless nation of Somalia, the world football governing body, FIFA, is helping to rebuild the country’s sport sector by training referees as well as its young footballers. Abdulaziz Billow has more from Mogadishu.
Video

Video With US Child Obesity Rates on the Rise, Program Promotes Health Eating

In its fifth year, FoodCorps puts more than 180 young Americans into 500 schools across the United States, where they focus on teaching students about nutrition, engaging them with hands-on activities, and improving their access to healthy foods whether in the cafeteria or the greater community. Aru Pande has more.
Video

Video Virginia Neighborhood Draws People to Nostalgic Main Street

In the U.S., people used to grow up in small towns with a main street lined by family-owned shops and restaurants. Today, however, many main streets are worn down and empty because shoppers have been lured away by shopping malls. But in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, Virginia, main street is thriving. VOA’s Deborah Block reports it has a nostalgic feel with its small restaurants and unique stores.

VOA Blogs